Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Capital Fictions

The Literature of Latin America’s Export Age

2012
Author:

Ericka Beckman

Capital Fictions

How literature interpreted Latin America’s first major period of capitalist expansion

Capital Fictions investigates the key role played by literature in imagining and interpreting the rapid transformations unleashed by Latin America’s first major wave of capitalist modernization between 1870 and 1930. Questioning the opposition between culture and economics in Latin America and elsewhere, Ericka Beckman shows that literature operated as a powerful form of political economy during this period.

Linking economics and culture, Capital Fictions makes a serious contribution to the field of Latin American studies. Ericka Beckman takes us on a beautifully written tour of a number of texts, both canonical and marginal to the Latin American tradition, to expose a writerly anxiety for the new economic age that has opened Latin America to the vicissitudes of the commodity market and to the tropes that come with the exchange, sale, display, and consumption of commodity form. The result is a deeply satisfying text that alerts us to new possibilities of interpretation and critique.

Francine R. Masiello, author of The Art of Transition: Latin American Culture and Neoliberal Crisis

Between 1870 and 1930, Latin American countries were incorporated into global capitalist networks like never before, mainly as exporters of raw materials and importers of manufactured goods. During this Export Age, entire regions were given over to the cultivation of export commodities such as coffee and bananas, capital and labor were relocated to new production centers, and barriers to foreign investment were removed. Capital Fictions investigates the key role played by literature in imagining and interpreting the rapid transformations unleashed by Latin America’s first major wave of capitalist modernization.

Using an innovative blend of literary and economic analysis and drawing from a rich interdisciplinary archive, Ericka Beckman provides the first extended evaluation of Export Age literary production. She traces the emergence of a distinct set of fictions, fantasies, and illusions that accompanied the rise of export-led, dependent capitalism. These “capital fictions” range from promotional pamphlets for Guatemalan coffee and advertisements for French fashions to novels about stock market collapse in Argentina and rubber extraction in the Amazon.

Beckman explores how Export Age literature anticipated some of the key contradictions faced by contemporary capitalist societies, including extreme financial volatility, vast social inequality, and ever-more-intense means of exploitation. Questioning the opposition between culture and economics in Latin America and elsewhere, Capital Fictions shows that literature operated as a powerful form of political economy during this period.

Capital Fictions

Ericka Beckman is assistant professor of Spanish and comparative literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Capital Fictions

Linking economics and culture, Capital Fictions makes a serious contribution to the field of Latin American studies. Ericka Beckman takes us on a beautifully written tour of a number of texts, both canonical and marginal to the Latin American tradition, to expose a writerly anxiety for the new economic age that has opened Latin America to the vicissitudes of the commodity market and to the tropes that come with the exchange, sale, display, and consumption of commodity form. The result is a deeply satisfying text that alerts us to new possibilities of interpretation and critique.

Francine R. Masiello, author of The Art of Transition: Latin American Culture and Neoliberal Crisis

[Ericka Beckman] brings a refreshingly caustic analysis to bear on the intellectual class who “saw integration into the world order of capitalism as desirable and inevitable.” For years such radical criticism was taboo in U.S. literary circles, [and] Capital Fictions signals a healthy change and marks a radical turn away from the worshipful devotion that literature still inspires in some circles.

E-Misférica

The novel teaches us that we cannot see everything at once; Beckman’s analysis, here as elsewhere in this mesmerizing book, comes close to a total view.

Modernism/Modernity

Beckman’s insights are convincing, her readings compelling, and her prose commendably clear.

Hispanic American Historical Review

Capital Fictions

Contents

Introduction: Capital Fictions
I. Boom
1. Production: Imagining the Export Republic
2. Consumption: Modernismo’s Import Catalogues
II. Bust
3. Money I: Financial Crisis and the Stock Market Novel
4. Money II: Bankruptcy and Decadence
5. Exploitation: A Journey to the Export Real
Conclusion: Return to Macondo

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index